Are you happy with the government you have? Is this the government you deserve? I asked these questions in this column last October. I then asked you for fund-raising support. Many of you responded. Thank you. Your contributions made quite a difference. While some of the political campaigns we supported did not prevail, we were quite successful with others.
Your contributions enabled us to put more than half-a-million dollars into an independent expenditure fund that targeted — and defeated — two incumbent California assembly members who had sponsored and carried ag-hostile bills in the California Legislature. This served as a “shot across the bow” of the powerful, urban, union and environmentally-allied super majority in the California Legislature, some of whom think ag is “irrelevant.”
Last month, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack gave a speech to the American Farm Bureau and said that agriculture’s influence is waning. It is a fact that less than 2 percent of Americans work in ag-related jobs, and it has been noted that with the decline of the rural population, agriculture’s representation, clout and influence in Congress falls as well. The numbers may not be in our favor but that’s no reason to accept inferior status. Population numbers aren’t the only thing that matters. Everyone would be challenged to have the diversity of food at current prices without a farmer. So how do we acquire influence? We persevere and we keep fighting using defensive and offensive strategies, not only on the federal level, but at the state and regional level as well.
Defensively, we block harmful legislation or we influence bill language and regulations to soften the blow or delay implementation of stricter environmental regulations, labor laws and bills that attempt to seize water and other property rights. Your Western Growers’ staff labors in the trenches day-in-and-day-out. When bureaucrats and elected and appointed officials think ag is “irrelevant,” we find ways to change opinions and outcomes. Our team defends this industry with facts against some adversaries who lie with impunity, and others who want to take what is ours. We also fight offensively as the California Assembly independent expenditure strategy demonstrates.
We are significant influencers at this moment in the negotiations and drafting of federal immigration reform legislation. At this writing, I have crossed the country 12 times since December for meetings with 14 U.S. Senate leaders to form a legislative solution that works for our industry. We are at the table and driving our position forward, but I will have more to write about that later.
What is important to our industry is that we adequately prepare for the next campaign. We must back up the powerful message we sent to every legislator in the California state Capitol during the last election: We want to work with you, and we will be the first to roll up our sleeves to find workable solutions to real problems, but if you target farmers and the jobs they create by supporting politically-motivated legislation that threatens our livelihood, you could be the next incumbent legislator to lose re-election. We speak softly, but must carry a big stick.
The independent expenditure committee — Farmers Working for a Better California — is the big stick. We must return with even more firepower and focus in the next election cycle, and in every election hereafter, if we are to be acknowledged, respected and relevant. That will take ammunition so we must replenish and beef up our arsenal. If you supported this cause last year, think about stepping up your contribution this year. If you didn’t participate, now you can. I won’t ask for your check today, but be prepared and plan to hear from me.
Join Western Growers
Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live.